Lesson 07- The Communist Manifesto
This is the eighth program concerning the historical roots of our present economic collapse. So far I have talked about how economic systems have evolved from a barter economy, where people traded goods and services, to a money economy, where different societies invented and used something to be used as a medium of exchange, to the pre-Capitalistic Mercantilistic economy of Europe which, forgetting that gold and silver, having little intrinsic value, real value was as a medium of exchange. And thus the erroneous belief that the wealth of a nation depended on the supply of these metals independent of the goods and services that it produced. And finally, to the Capitalistic economy proposed by Adam Smith that placed the real wealth of nations on the goods and services produced. This being the case, Smith proposed a free economy in which everyone was free of government interference in their economic decisions since he believed that this would lead to the greatest and most creative production of goods and services. And, if today’s capitalistic economy is the result, he was right.
However, it is obvious that, while each economic development corrected a problem in the previous system, it also contained problems of its own which generated another economic theory to correct it. Thus, Capitalism corrected an error in Mercantilism but, in turn, was opposed by Communism that sought to correct the errors in it.
What we are observing here is the dialectical process by which human individuals and societies grow and learn through the consequences that reality reflects back to them. Since reality is just another name for Truth, and Truth, according to us, is Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Light that was sent to set us free from the Kingdom of Darkness and Ignorance, then all these development are part of the Judeo/Christian/Linear/Utopian/Concept of History that is leading us to the Kingdom of God. When any system developed by us starts to fall apart, we are about to experience a great opportunity for learning. However, this requires that we have “ears that hear, and eyes that see” so that we might understand what we are being taught.
In my last program, I described Hegel’s theory of Dialectical Idealism in which he said that history is developing towards God or Ultimate Truth through the conflict between ideas. Because we are all born in Mental Darkness, not knowing how or why we are here, we must create theories that help us to organize our reality. These theories, called Theses, which can be totally true, partially false, or totally false are clung to until they are challenged by an opposing theory or Antithesis. As the struggle takes place between them, with the Thesis representing the conservative position of “what is: and the Antithesis representing the liberal position of “what could or should be”, they finally combine into a Synthesis where “what could or should be” is combined with “what is” and a new Thesis is created that, hopefully, is closer to the truth than the previous one. I said “hopefully” because the dialectic can be regressive as well as progressive. However, I don’t have time to go into that now. Thus, according to Hegel, the flow of history is Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis… Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis…Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis with each revolution, like the tires on a car, taking us one step close to the Ultimate Truth.
As Christians, we should be drawn to the dialectic because all dialectics involved the interaction between two things that result in a third and that is a description of a trinitarian interaction that resembles the one between the Father and the Son which results in the Holy Spirit. The fact that our universe is full of such relationships suggests that not only are we made in the image and likeness of a Trinitarian God but so is everything else. Modern physicists describe the universe as a “cosmic dance of paradoxical yet unified relationships” in which two things that seem to be opposite actually interact and combine into a unified result. For example, Hegel said that Truth was a union of opposites; Buckminster Fuller, a modern day genius and Renaissance Man, said that the basic form in the universe was a triangle because it was a union of opposites and our rational brains, composed of a right and left lobe, whose insights are combined in a frontal lobe, is a union of opposites. And recently I saw a program on a new discovery concerning “fragiles” which are triangular shapes of various size that allow the irregular lines in nature, such as the peaks of mountains, through the repetition and overlaying of triangles. Without them everything would be rectangular or square. Get the picture! Whoever created this universe is obsessed with triangles. Maybe because, like the triangle, He is a union of opposites. In other words, He is involved in a dialectical relationship.
Thus we might conclude that a dialectical God, composed of an artistic genius, who is the Father, and a logical craftsman, who is His Logos or Son, generated an enthusiastic creative energy, who is the Spirit resulting from the love and agreement between them, together created a dialectical universe based on a dialectical form, the triangle, which is a union of opposite, evolving thorough a dialectical process involving a cosmic dance of paradoxical, yet unified relationships, resulting in a human being whose rational, dialectical mind is a reflection of the Creator Himself. Let me repeat that again so that it really sinks in. “Thus we could conclude that a dialectical God, composed of an artistic genius, who is the Father, and a logical craftsman, who is His Logos or Son, generated an enthusiastic creative energy, who is the Spirit resulting from the love and agreement between them, together created a dialectical universe based on a dialectical form, the triangle which is a union of opposite, evolving thorough a dialectical process involving a cosmic dance of paradoxical, yet unified relationships, resulting in a human being whose rational, dialectical mind is a reflection of the Creator Himself.” I know that this is a mouthful and it might not sink in immediately but it is something worth pondering.
The point that I am making is that the dialectic may be the key to the universe itself. And thus it should not surprise us that Hegel’s theory of Dialectical Idealism should generate Marx’s opposing theory of Dialectical Materialism and that another opposing theory will eventually arise that challenges the defects in both of them while incorporating what was good in each. As a Christian, I believe that we that theory. St. Paul says, “the whole creation groans like a woman in childbirth awaiting the revelation of the sons (and daughters) of God.” Is Christianity, lived out as it was suppose to be, the revelation of the Ultimate Truth that Hegel predicted was the goal of the dialectic? I think it is.
So now let me return to the point in my last talk where I was explaining how Marx had turned Hegel’s theory upside down by proposing that it was classes of people, not ideas, that were involved in a dialectical, historical battle and that it was moving towards a classless society and not God as Hegel had proposed.
Marx developed his dialectical theory in an environment of raw Capitalism in which the greed of businessmen resulted in men, women, and children being worked to death in unsafe conditions for meager wages. And this was happening not only in England and Europe but also in the United States where books like “The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair described similar working conditions of immigrant workers in the meat packing industry of Chicago. It was a disgrace that should have offended our Christian beliefs and it took years of struggle and sacrifice for reformers and labor leaders to correct. Sometimes we forget this and assume that what we are experiencing now was always the case. And we also forget that Communism was part of the struggle against the injustices and abuses of early Capitalism. Or that China, before Communism, was a land ruled by petty nobles and warlords who oppressed the peasants and enslaved their children. Anyone who has ever studied Russian history or read Pearl Buck’s “The Good Earth” cannot help but admit that both Communist Russia and China have benefited many of the serfs and peasants in their physical wellbeing while, unfortunately at the same time, undermining their spiritual wellbeing.
Unfortunately, we human beings tend to spend more time demonizing our enemies instead of understanding them. Even if Communism was viewed as the Evil Empire or the work of the devil, as some people claim, there would still be some benefit in listening to their issues since, according to Fr. O’Donnell at Malvern Retreat House, the devil never tell a total lie because it would be too obvious. Instead he mixes 5% of his lies in with 95% of the truth. Therefore, it is important that we learn to discern between the 95% which is true from the 5% which is false so that we can benefit even from those with whom we disagree.
Because Communism has been associated with atheism, many Christians have turned a deaf ear to what it has to say just as they have done the same with environmentalist because some are often associated with nature worship. In doing so they have rejected the whole because of the part and have failed to see the part of their enemy’s program that is compatible with their own. Social justice is a Christian ideal just as it is a Communist one. And stewardship of the environment of the earth and its resources is a Christian ideal just as it is one for nature worshippers. Truth, because it is a union of opposites, implies that it always involves a tension between two extreme and only those who know how to maintain the tension are capable of following it. Go too far to either side and error starts to creep in. Hegel once said that any good idea taken too far becomes a bad idea.
However, it is quite possible that it was not the devil who turned the Communists into atheists but rather the poor and scandalous behavior of Christians in the past and the present. In fact, Pope John Paul II apologized to the atheists for the scandalous behavior of some of our ancestors that drove many people of good will away from the Church, Christianity, and religion itself. In South America peasants embraced the Communists because they were the only ones calling for land reform which would require the idle rich, with million of acres of land, to share some of it with landless peasants who were living in shanty towns on the outskirts of cities. When the Church started to speak out for social justice, they flocked back to the Church.
This is not to say that all the enemies of the Church are misunderstood humanitarians who are devoid of any evil intent. I am sure that there were and are people who for other less noble reasons have a “bone to pick” with the Church and would have been antagonistic towards it even if it had not strayed from its own Christian principles.
Be that as it may, the Church, in particular, and Christianity, in general, has been involved in a Cultural War with Secular Humanism since the time of the French Revolution of 1789, of which Communism is an expression. The roots of this conflict go back even before this time but it was the French Revolution, during the Enlightenment Period, that marks the beginning of the frontal attack by the Secular Humanists on Christian institutions. The sorry state of Christianity in Europe today and its embattled state in our country is indicative of the success that they have achieved through the expropriation of our cultural norms through the control of education, the media, and the courts. They are much wiser and dedicated to the aims of their program than Christians are because they present a united front while Christians are too busy fighting each other over theological arguments that are almost 500 years old. Never was the old adage “Divide and conquer” more true.
If there is anything that you can say about the secular humanist it is that they love to issue manifestos in which they show that they have a clear vision of what they want; that they are willing to work over the long-haul to get it; that they have a well mapped-out strategy for accomplishing their ends; and lastly, they aren’t afraid to tell other people what they intend to do and how they intend to do it. Thus if you want to know what Communism is about and what they think of Capitalism there is no better place to go than to the Communist Manifesto, written by Fredrick Engel with Karl Marx in 1848. In it they analyze the roots of Capitalism; its impact on Western history and the world, and how they will eventually overthrow it.
Marx and Engel open the Communist Manifesto by saying that Communism was a ghost that was haunting Europe which had all the rulers trembling over their fear of a Communist Revolution. In fact, their fear caused them to unite against communism and to suspect anyone who objected about anything of being a communist. There is an element of truth in this for two reasons. First, conservative forces are inclined to charge any attempt to change the “status quo” as being communist led or communist inspired. Thus, both the labor leaders who fought for unionization and Martin Luther King were suspected of being agents of the communist by those who opposed them. Second, communist do try to infiltrate any revolutionary movement that might be able to be steered towards communistic goals. However, this does not mean that anyone who objects to the “status quo” is a communist.
History, says the Manifesto, is the dialectical story of class struggle between the “haves” and “have nots” that always resulted in a revolution that, instead of eliminating class struggle and oppression, always led to new groups of “haves” and “have nots.”
Modern capitalistic society, according to Marx and Engel, has reduced the struggle to a conflict between the bourgeoisie, or business class, and the proletariat, or working class.
The rise of the bourgeoisie class began with the increase in trade following the discovery of America and the rounding of the Cape of Good Hope. Up until this time, Europe was living in the so-called Dark Ages where survival rather than development was the major issue and people were living on a subsistent level with little trade or manufacturing.
The rise of the business class due to the increased trade with the East led to the destruction of Feudalism because the hand-made methods of production used during the Feudal period were not fast enough to keep up with the increased demand. Consequently “hand-made” production methods were replaced by a manufacturing method in which machines and mass production began to replace workers and personal craftsmanship. In other words, the shoemaker who used to craft each shoe to the individual’s foot couldn’t meet the increased demand that came with world trade. First, he couldn’t measure the customers’ foot when he lived thousand of miles away. And, second, he couldn’t keep up with the increased demand. Therefore, the idea of custom-made, hand-crafted shoes had to be replaced by mass-produced, machine made shoes with standardized sizes.
You might recognize that this is an example of the movement from the right lobe to the left lobe of the brain. The feudal shoemaker was, in a sense, an artist who crafted each shoe as a personal expression of his art. The workers who operated the machines that mass-produced standardized shoes did not have the same personal input into the product that the shoemaker had. In fact, no one worker could even claim to have made the shoes because the left lobe had broken the process down into individual logical steps which were performed by different workers. Thus, according to Marx, the new manufacturing system cut two way. On the plus side, it made shoes available in greater quantity, in greater variety, to a greater number of people. On the negative side, it eliminated the worker’s sense of personal satisfaction in having created something that expressed his own talent. In fact, one of the major cultural impact of this new capitalistic society was the movement away from the personal relationships of the Middle Ages in which each person felt tied in and related to others towards an impersonal modern world which emphasized individualism and isolation from others.
According to Marx, Capitalism has destroyed all these personal bonds and relationships and has made money or profit the only connection that remains among people. No longer do people see themselves as functioning members of a group with shared beliefs, values, and goals that have come together for mutual survival. According to him, the only thing that ties one person to another is profit. The doctor is not interested in your health; he is interested in your money. The lawyer is not interested in justice; he is interested in money. The priest is not interested in your soul; he is interested in what you contribute to the collection plate.
The modern day athlete is an example. In the past, the athlete was a member of a community who represented it in competition with other communities. In a sense, the events were turf battles in which one area competed with another area to display the dominance of their males over the other males. The members of the team were residents of the area that they represented and had a basic loyalty to it. However, today the professional athlete is like a hired-gun who will move from team to team depending upon who offers him the most money. There is rarely any loyalty that he has to the team or its owner and, in return, they don’t have any loyalty to him. The moment he becomes unproductive or someone better than him comes along, he is “history.” Such, says Marx, is the result of Capitalism. We have traded relationships for things and personal loyalty for profit.
The result of this movement from hand-crafted to machine-crafted products has been the movement of the population from the rural areas to the cities. Machines need factories; factories need large work forces and railroad lines and harbors to bring in the raw materials and export finish products. Thus, before the Industrial Revolution, women used to sit by their farmhouse fires at night spinning cloth which was collected by a roving merchant who paid them for their work. However, to keep up with the demand, the merchant settled down near the routes of transportation and built a large building, called a factory, to harbor the large machines that would replace the women’s spinning wheel. If they wanted to work for him, then they had to move to where his factory was. Those families that did created a need for other services, such as, doctors, teachers, lawyers, carpenters, repairmen, clergymen and a host of others who added to the overall population. Eventually, buildings arose around the factory and as time passed, a city arose where there had once been open land. Marx considered this to be a blessing because he saw the city as a place for intellectual stimulation and the rural, farm areas as a place for mental stagnation. This was because the cities were full of people from different backgrounds who produced antitheses to each other’s Thesis about reality while the small towns in the farm areas were populated by people who shared the same Thesis about life.
A process of centralization was taking place because as manufacturing caused populations to become centralized in cities, government and other institutions also became centralized. Scattered rural areas became towns; towns joined to become cities; cities united to become states; states united to become nations, and eventually nations would unite in some type of international organization.
People during the rural feudal period had established hereditary roles which they followed during their entire lives. Once a shoemaker, always a shoemaker. They could live their entire lives in a five square mile area where they were born, grew up, married, assumed the job or craft of their parents, raised their children to duplicate themselves, and die. It may not have always been a good life but it was secure. One knew who he was and what was expected of him. In the movie “Fiddler on the Roof”, which is based on the Jewish dialectical way of thinking, Retavia, the major character, sings a song about tradition which makes the same point.
In this new system people were on the move. You could be born in one place, grow-up in another place, educated in a third, marry in a fourth, settle down in a fifth, retired in a sixth, and be buried in a seventh. It was a life of change and uncertainty that sacrificed security for freedom and choice.
As world trade increased, says Marx, underdeveloped nations had a choice when they came in contact with developed ones. They could either become extinct or adopt the manufacturing model themselves. In other word, they couldn’t compete against capitalistic science and technology. Once any primitive or underdeveloped group accepted any product made by this new system, they were hooked. Once they took a metal axe to replace their stone axe, they either became dependent on the developed countries to replace them or they had to learn how to make these axes themselves. If they chose to make the metal axes themselves, they began a metamorphosis which changed them from “non-economic men” to “economic men.” They built factories, created cities, wore Western clothes, had wrist watches, ran their days by a schedule, and worked longer than their basic needs required. In other words, they had become capitalist and were Westernized. Eventually, this process would create, for better or worse, a world culture based on the Western world’s economic model of Capitalism. In doing so, they would reap both the benefits and problems that accompanied this system.
The agents of this world culture would be the businessmen who, in their quest for higher and higher profits, were unwilling to stay home and simply service local markets. Their motto was “he who doesn’t grow, falls behind.” Thus larger businesses swallowed up smaller ones and moved from local markets to state markets, to national markets, and, finally, to international markets. As these businessmen and merchants flitted about from one country to another they became transmitters of culture. Like bees cross-pollinating flowers as they flitted from one flower to another seeking nectar, the capitalistic businessman was cross-pollinating cultures as they flitted from one culture to another seeking profits. In their travels, they brought American jeans to Asian consumers and brought back Asian martial arts and meditative practices to American consumers.
They were organizing the world on the international level faster and far more effectively than any government or religion had ever done because they didn’t care about your race, religion, morals, or ethnicity. All they cared about was the “color or your money.” Eventually, there would be little cultural distinction in appearance, dress or lifestyle between Asian, African, European, or American children. And, as these business moved to the international level, long before anyone else, they would start to demand the creation of international law and government to protect their business interests. It was inevitable and part of the natural flow of history.
However, according to Marx, Capitalism is not the final chapter in this historical drama because there is another chapter to be written following it. It was the chapter on Communism. Capitalism was only setting the stage for Communism by creating the means of production that would make Communism possible. In other words, you cant have Communism until you first have Capitalism. Why is this so?
No economic system has ever produce goods and services in the quantity and at the rate that Capitalism does. However, Capitalism has a fatal flaw, says Marx, that will eventually destroy it. It is like Dr. Frankenstein who created a monster who turned on him. Its very ability to produce in such quantity, will eventually destroy it because, although it is a suitable system when the human race is living in want and poverty, it will collapse by the very fact that it will eliminate them. The fatal flaw results when people have enough and no longer want any more.
The flaw in its system is the problem of “overproduction.” Capitalism, in order to motivate people to work beyond their basic needs, entices workeers by offering them money in relationship to the quantity of things they produced. In other words, they tied “production and distribution” together. Your share of the distribution of good and service is related to the amount that you produce. The more you make the more you get. And, if you don’t produce anything, you don’t get anything.
The problem arises when the system has finally met all of the legitimate needs and wants of the consumer. If the consumer should ever decide that he “has enough”, the system would find itself in a terrible dilemma. When the demand for their products decreases, the manufacturers are faced with warehouses full of unwanted goods. Therefore, having over-produced, the owners logically begin to fire or lay workers off and the unemployment rates rises. As more workers become unemployed the demand for other products decrease and the workers in those areas are also fired or laid off. Eventually, Capitalism has a ludicrous situation where millions of workers, who want to work and want to buy the products that are stored in the warehouses, are unable to acquire any money because they only way to get it is to produce something.
In short, Capitalism has tied distribution to production and it can’t stop production without stopping distribution. Never before in history, says Marx, has the human race had a problem where people are starving because there is too much. It’s like a man dying from the lack of food and water in an apartment with a full refrigerator and running water. It defies logic and common sense.
And how does Capitalism solve this problem, asks Marx. In two ways, it either tries to find new markets to buy its surpluses or it destroys what is has produced in order to pay the workers to produce it again. The first solution adds to the expansion of Capitalism throughout the world and the establishment of a world culture as the businessmen try to convince Third World nations that they need to have all of the trinkets and gadgets that Western people have.
The second solution leads to a culture of waste in which the depletion of natural resource and the disposal of waste become major problems that threaten the environment and the quality of life on earth. No longer will producers wait for the consumer to decide what he needs or wants. Billions of dollars will be spent on advertising to stimulate his desire for things that he never knew that he wanted or needed. Products will be assigned “death dates” by the engineers so that they will have to be replaced. Clothing and other products will be manipulated thorough “design obsolescence” so that people will want to replace them simply because they are no longer in style even though they haven’t lost their usefulness. People will be encouraged to “throw things away” rather than repair them by making the cost of repair almost equal to the cost of a new item. New features on a product will be added bit by bit so that the consumer will want to replace the one he has because it lacks the feature.
Marx says that all of these solutions will ultimately fail because Capitalism will be plagued by reoccurring depression brought on by the problem of “overproduction.” Each time one occurs, smaller manufacturers, will go bankrupt and will be swallowed up by larger ones until finally the world is ruled by super conglomerates which are controlled by just a few super-rich capitalists. At this point, the proletariats, who are living in poverty, will notice that they are the overwhelming majority and, under the leadership of the Communist, they will rise up and overthrow the capitalists. Then the Communist will declare a “dictatorship of the proletariat” and, after seizing control of the factories and other productive forces, they will create a “worker’s paradise” in which “everyone will work according to his ability and receive according to his need.” In other words, they will separate distribution, what one gets, from production, what one makes, and thereby solve the basic flaw in Capitalism.
Well, I see that my time is up and I’ll have to save my further comments until next time.
Thus the Protestant Reformation was a natural outgrowth of the individualism and so was the growth of democratic states.
Fourth, the Protestant Reformation moved religion towards the emphasis on the individual when Luther preached private interpretation of the Bible.
Third, the Renaissance led
As I ended my last program, I was discussing how Adam Smith, a Scottish professor, in 1776 wrote a book called “Wealth of Nations” which provided the philosophical basis for Capitalism. We might say that Adam Smith is to Capitalism what Karl Marx was to Communism. In fact, Capitalism preceded Communism and became the Thesis to which Communism became the Antithesis.
Capitalism was the Antithesis to the economic theory of Mercantilism which said that the “wealth of a nations” depended on the amount of “gold and silver” it had amassed. Adam Smith raised an antithesis to this by saying that the “wealth of a nation” depended on the amount of “goods and services” that it produced and that this could be accomplished only in a totally “free economy” in which every one was free to pursue his own self interest. Therefore, he called for the elimination of all government regulation of the economy. The economy, he said, would be controlled by an “invisible hand” of self-interest and competition. Like nature, the complex relationships involved in an economy would balanced and adjusted through the dialectical process of competition. The overall result would be a creative economy in which greedy men, seeking their own profits, would work themselves to death trying to find ways to provide the best product at the cheapest price in order to win customers away from their competitors. It would be a consumer driven economy in which the wishes and desires of the consumer would rule and in which the “means of production” would automatically shift to those who were most sensitive to the changing desires of the public.
In a very real sense, a Capitalistic economy is the largest and most direct democracy in human history because anyone who has a dollar, no matter what their age, sex, or race, gets to vote on what will be produced and no government is as responsive to the citizens as businessmen are to the consumers. They cannot afford to be indifferent to lower sales and decreasing profits.
However, as I was saying at the end of my last program, Capitalism was opposed by economic and religious forces when it was first suggested. Few people believed that a free, unplanned economy could succeed over a planned one. It went against common sense and logic. Also, Catholic church leaders had moral problems with an economic system based on “profit and self interest.” Such a system was amoral because “profit” trumped every other consideration. The only moral consideration that the producer of a product was concerned with was “will it make money or lose money?” Thus, in the beginning, Capitalism was opposed by most Christian churches, especially the Catholic Church whose views on profit and interest I reviewed in my last program. However, whenever a major social institution, such as an economic system, changes in a culture, other social institutions often change to match it. Such was the case with Capitalism.
According to many historians, Capitalism could never have developed under Roman Catholicism because of its emphasis on charity and “other-worldliness.” What was needed was a religious theory that encouraged and justified its member’s pursuit of wealth. And that is where John Calvin and the Presbyterians come in.
Calvin and his followers set up a theocracy in GenevaSwitzerland based on
Gospel of wealth and Andrew Carnegie
There are still many idealistic people who believe that the theory of Communism or Socialism is the answer to all of our problems and this is because they are able to contrast it with the problems of Capitalism. They can point to the problems of unemployment, the unequal distribution of wealth, the environmental impact of industry, the wasteful use of natural resources, and a host of other problems that always plague any operating system because there never was any system that didn’t bring disadvantages along with its advantages. And that is why linear minded societies are always dealing with reforms aimed at correcting the disadvantages.
The only perfect systems are in our imaginations where everything follows the script as we have written it. Once our theories move from the drawing board to concrete reality, a multitude of antitheses arise to challenge the flaws that naturally flow from the impact of millions of human beings operating according to their own interests and design. As a result, there are constant dialectical adjustments, like the high wire artist with his balancing pole, taking place in any operating system where first it swings too far one way and then too far the other way. The word utopia means “nowhere” and anyone who is looking for a dynamic system that remains in perfect balance is a true utopian. Some system are better and closer to perfection than others but “nowhere” is there a perfect system that doesn’t contain some flaw and most, if not all system, are constantly struggling with entropic forces which are trying to bring them back to chaos.
Thus, every dynamic system requires constant vigilance to keep it true to its original vision. And every system involves some types of trade-off and the best that we can get is a system that bestows more advantages than disadvantages. Therefore, to say that any operating system contains problems is an oxymoron because operating systems always contain problems.
Thus, Capitalism has its problems and so does Communism and, as Christians, we make a big mistake when, in opposing one system, such as Communism because its atheistic view is totally incompatible with ours, we fail to recognize the flaws in another system, such as Capitalism, that we are defending because it pays lip-service to God. In fact, as Christians, we make a big mistake when we bring any political or economic system completely under the umbrella of our belief system when in reality our belief system, which seeks goals beyond the natural level, supercedes all natural systems.
Some Christian evangelist, in their opposition to atheistic Communism, sometimes speak as though the economic theory of Capitalism was part of the Ten Commandments that Moses received on Mount Sinai or the Beatitudes that Jesus delivered in His Sermon on the Mount. Christianity stands above both Capitalism and Communism and is willing to accept and incorporate those parts of both systems that are compatible with its own aims. It likes the freedom and competition of Capitalism, because it reflects the laws of nature, while, at the same time, it supports the order and cooperation of Communism, because it reflects our rational nature. However, too much freedom leads to chaos, and too much order leads to a dictatorial stagnation.
Thus the Church is neither Capitalistic nor Communistic and although it is willing to incorporate and approve elements of both systems, it is also critical of other elements. By the same token, politically it is neither democratic nor totalitarian although it can exist in either system. In other words, the Church is a system unto itself that has goals and objectives of its own and it is able and willing to exist and thrive in any system that allows it to pursue its own vision.
However, its ultimate vision is the freedom and dignity of every human being and, although it will temporarily tolerate totalitarian systems so long as they respect the human dignity of their members and work towards their development as human beings, its ultimate goal is to create an environment in which the individual takes personal responsibility for his own life. Thus, it seeks to eventually bring every human beings to full maturity by leading them from “other control”, which is necessary when we are young and immature, to “” self control”, which is the true sign of adulthood. In other words, the Church’s role is to lead us from the “law” of the Old Testament where behavior is controlled through the promise of reward or the threat of punishment, to the “spirit” of the New Testament where rational understanding takes the place of external compulsion. When this happens, then we and the world will see the fulfillment of God’s plan when, as the Scriptures say, He will write His laws on our heart and no longer will we have to ask or be instructed in right behavior because our “hearts of stones” will be replaced by “hearts of flesh” and we will know the Will of God just as we know ourselves. To put this in the imagery of the Medieval philosophers, the blind giant or Will, which was made to seek “the Good”, will join with the seeing but powerless Intellect, which was made to seek “the True”, and together they will lead us to the “Truly Good”, which is just another name for God.
Thus, sooner or later, it is freedom and self-determination that the Church seeks for everyone and, to that extent, the free economy of Capitalism is more to its liking than the controlled economy of Communism. Not because Capitalism contains a higher morality, because, of itself, Capitalism has no morality other than the values of those whose choices it reflects. Capitalism, like God, gives each of us the freedom to move reality according to the dictates of our hearts and thus it is a true reflection of our values or lack of them. God, like Communism, could have eliminated sin and all the chaos that results from it, simply by removing “free choice.” He could have had created a controlled universe that only reflected His will, just as Communism has a controlled economy that only reflects the will of the leaders. But to do so would have violated His nature because, if as the scriptures say “God is Love” then love by its very nature requires “free choice.” “Forced love” is a contradiction in terms.
Thus, as an agent of this God, the Church’s ultimate goal is to lead us to freedom. But it is the responsible freedom of the Gospel, not the hedonistic, irresponsible license that we see today. The human heart wants to be free but, at the same time, it needs to have order because it can’t live in chaos. And that is why historians, like Will Durant, say that when “freedom destroys order, the need for order will destroy freedom.” History has shown that when freedom become license, such as it did in the French Revolution during the Reign of Terror, the human heart will seek a dictator to bring things back into order.
Thus, we have a dialectical dilemma because we have two conflicting needs. The creative artistic right lobe wants freedom to follow its creative impulses and the logical, legalistic left lobe wants the structure and order that is necessary for social living. When the right lobe and its quest for freedom goes too far, it results in chaos. When the left lobe and its quest for order goes too far it results in dictatorship. In fact, the root for the word “dictator” is the same as the one for “dictation”, which means ‘to speak” and it is the left lobe of the brain which is the source of language, law, and structure.
Thus, the freedom of “no control” is a false and self-defeating freedom because it leads to the “chaos” that results in a “self imposed” dictatorship in which we turn over the responsibility for our lives to someone else. Therefore, the only type of freedom that is compatible with our total nature is the self-control that results from moral maturity, rather than the enforced control that comes from totalitarian systems, such as Communism. Thus, the “other control”, which is necessary in childhood and chaotic conditions, should be only a passing phase on our way to real freedom and self-determination.
Unfortunately, this was not always clearly understood by those who directed the Church and instead of being “leaven in the dough” working towards the ultimate responsible freedom of everyone, some church leaders thought that their job was to support the “status quo” under the banner of “law and order.” I have already made reference to this concerning the situations which brought on the French Revolution where the Church became identified with the existing system and the conditions in some Latin American countries where Communism has flourished because the Church leaders became too identified with the ruling class and forgot their role as “Gentle Revolutionaries” who were obligated to remind the well-off members of their flock of their obligation to be concerned with the issue of “social justice”, especially as it pertained to their less fortunate brothers and sisters in Christ.
However, whenever the Church has been true to its calling, it has been a champion for the freedom and dignity of every person and, whenever it has failed to do this, it has strayed from the path that Christ set for it. And that is why, the Church, like other dynamic systems, has a history of adjustment and readjustment through a dialectical process. Sometimes it was “too heavenly-minded to be of any earthly good” and, at other times, “it was too worldly-minded to be of any heavenly good.” It was at its best when “it prayed like everything depended on God and worked like everything depended on it.”
Its history is one of “repentance and reform” as God inspired saints of different temperament to address the excesses of the times and to set it on the right path by bring it back into balance. Thus, its over-all thrust has always been towards the ultimate freedom of every person through the recognition of his basic dignity as a being “made in the image and likeness of God.” And since Jesus had come to “set us free” , freedom was the ultimate goal of salvation.
However, the Church never preached that freedom was the modern day concept of “no control” as expressed by slogans like “Let it all hang out!”, “I did it my way!” or “Just do it!” Rather, it always preached that our dignity as rational beings demanded that freedom meant “self control” in which the individual grew to full maturity by recognizing his duties and obligations towards his Creator and his fellow humans. In other words, his secondary purposes on the micro level always had to be subjugated to the primary purposes of the Natural Order and the society on the macro level.
This is obvious in the Church’s own history, as uneven as it sometimes was. It is a history very similar to the natural history of each human life as it moves from the ignorance and dependency of childhood, through the rebellious years of adolescence, to the self awareness and self control of adulthood.
Through most of its early history the Church was a mother dealing with barbaric people who, like children, could neither read nor write and thus, like a parent, it guided them through rules and regulations, backed up with warnings of serious consequences if they did not obey. And, like parents, it did it with very little explanation. This, historically speaking, was the Age of Faith, when the Church asked it members to accept its teachings on its authority even if they did not completely understand them.
As a result, its opponents today often accuse it of being dogmatic, undemocratic and totalitarian because throughout its history the Magisterium has stated firmly what the Church believed and refused to put it up to a democratic vote. In a previous program I quoted a letter that I wrote in reply to David Boldt, the editorial writer for the Inquirer, who charged the Church with being un-American because it was not democratic. However, this is based on a faulty premise that assumes that issues of truth and faith should be decided by the majority vote, rather than by those who, through their training and education, have been appointed to make those decisions.
Even in the secular realm, we do not allow the meaning of the Constitution to be put to a popular vote. Instead, for better or worse, we allow nine justices to make those decisions and even though we might disagree with them, we accept that what they say will be the “law of the land” either until they change their minds or Congress and the people alter to Constitution.
However, in the area of “faith and moral”, Catholics believe that Jesus, by bestowing the “Keys of the Kingdom” and the power of “binding and loosening” upon Peter, the Apostle and their successors gave them the “final say” and that He promised to send the Holy Spirit of Truth to guide them. Thus the certitude of the Church in areas of “faith and morals” is intimately tied to the divinity of Christ and His promises. Those who don’t believe in this have trouble with the Church’s claim to infallibility in these areas; those who do believe, don’t because it logically follows from their basic belief system. Thus, to criticize the Church for being undemocratic errs in two ways: first, because it assumes that Truth and morality must be based on a majority decision and second because if the Church were to deny it divine origin and guidance, it would undermine its very reason for existence.
However, even sincere believers with modern sensibilities sometimes winch when we hear of heretics during the Inquisition being tortured and burned at the stake and I doubt that many Catholic would attempt to justify these practices. However, it is unfair to judge the Church in the Middle Ages by modern conditions and standards just as it is unfair for one historical period to judge another historical period where conditions and perspectives were different. Aside from the abuses that flow from our defective human nature that infects and distorts every system and historical period, one has to view the past from the perspective and level of understanding that existed at that time.
Since the Church believed that it had been divinely commission by Christ to preserve and preach the Gospel, and that the eternal salvation of its members depended on its effectiveness in doing this, it sometimes acted or over-reacted when heretics threatened to undermine its efforts. One might not always agree with its methods but one should try to understand its motives and take into consideration that even the most divine plan must pass through the minds and understanding of the human beings who are trying to implement it.
However, when looked at over the long-term historical perspective, the Church, like any good parent, was not satisfied to allow its children to remain in ignorance and set out to educate them. The secular humanists like to believe that it was the Church that tried to keep people in ignorance and mental darkness but history doesn’t bear them out. It was the Church and her monks that through tedious handwritten manuscripts copied and preserved whatever was left of the literary past of the Roman Empire and the Vatican Library is one of the greatest sources for those who want to study European antiquity. Also, most of the great writers and thinkers of Western culture were Catholics or Christians. Also, contrary to popular belief, it was the Church that was responsible for the schools and universities of Europe. And, even in this country, it was the Christian churches who created most of the top universities like Harvard, which, unfortunately have drifted further and further away from their religious roots.
To those who believe that the goal of religion in general and the Church in particular was to keep people ignorant, I would like to again quote Professor Kors, a Jewish professor who teaches 17th and 18th century intellectual European history at the University of Pennsylvania. Professor Kors said:
“Never, in the history of all (religious) creeds, has there been more intellectual dynamism, vitality, philosophical diversity, mutual criticism, and natural philosophical liberty than in the history of the Catholic Church… Against the crude, current academic categories of (political correctness based on) race, ethnicity, and sexuality, (the Catholic Church and Catholic education) affirms the moral truth of a common humanity based upon our existence as beings with rational and responsible souls…Catholic universities… must bear witness that freedom is a gift that distinguishes us from the beast.”
In other words, it is the “thought Nazis” of “political correctness” today, not the Catholic Church, who are the enemies of rational thought, discussion and learning.
When look at from an historical perspective, one can see the Church’s role in taking her children from infancy to full maturity by gradually replacing laws and rules with freedom and choice. We might see the period following the Crusades, and from the Renaissance to Modern Times, as the teenage years, when the growing sense of individualism and self importance led to rebellion against all forms of authority.
As the uneducated masses moved from childhood ignorance to adult understanding, the Church and society in general had to bear the dangers and problems that accompany all mental awakenings that began with Adam and Eve after they ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Knowledge leads to self-assurance and self-assurance leads to questioning, and questioning leads to disagreement and disagreement leads to rebellion and division. But there is no way to escape it because it is a necessary part of our maturation process.
Thus, the general mental awakening that began in Europe during the Renaissance with the rebirth of Art and Science was a double-edge sword. It brought people out of the Dark Ages of Faith alone, into a new Age of Reason and it impacted different people in different ways.
Some, excited by their new found intellectual freedom and the power of reason, left the Church, never to return. Some, like Luther and other Protestants, rebelled and formed other groups that were hostile to the Church’s views. Some stayed in the Church but rebelled against it’s authority by refusing to obey the rules or by selective obedience. Some paid lip-service and, like children who only come home at Thanksgiving and Christmas, attended only special functions like baptism, weddings, and Mass at Christmas and Easter. Anyone who has ever visited Europe notices that religion in many of those countries is female dominated and the men, for the most part, don’t bother to participate.
The Second Vatican Council marked the beginning of our adulthood when the Church relaxed a lot of rules of obligation and called upon us choose to practice freely those thing that we formerly practiced under “pain of sin.” The result, unfortunately, was that for some the removal of compulsion spelled the end of participation. If missing Mass wasn’t a mortal sin that could cause you to end up in hell, then why go?
The Church was asking us to grow up only to discover that many of us were still only infants in the faith because the only effective motivator was the promise of reward or the threat of punishment. Church attendance, especially among the young, dropped drastically and some left the Church to join other churches or movements. According to some, the largest single Church in the United States is the Catholic Church and the second largest is composed of ex-Catholics. Statistics also indicate that Catholics make up the largest group of people who joined cults and New Age movement.
The Second Vatican Council had unearthed a fatal flaw in the transmission of our faith. For many people, because their faith was based on authority and compulsion rather than love and understanding, its roots were shallow and it collapsed under the first instance of testing. Many Catholics were doing the right thing for the wrong reason and when that reason was removed they stopped doing it. Thus, when they were set adrift without the rules, they fell apart and either led empty meaningless lives or sought salvation in some other church or movement.
I would like to say they “left the Church” but that would be inaccurate because many of them never knew the Church or ever understood what membership in it really meant. At best, they were nominal Catholics and at worst they were pagans who didn’t believe in Christ or the Church even though they used the title of Catholic and were a product of our educational institutions. They were the people that the secular media loved to interview and quote on issues involving the Church because they would always provide evidence that many Catholics did not agree with the Church on major moral issues.
Yet, Pope John Paul II has insisted that we should not be afraid because we are in the “springtime of the Church” despite the fact that the faith is dying or dead in many European countries and a similar process is taking hold in the United States.
What many see as the decline or death of the Church, the Pope sees as simply a “pruning” that the Church has gone through in previous historical periods. The dead and unfruitful branches are being cut away so that new growth can take place with the healthy and fruitful branches.
I just attended our monthly men’s meeting where a young priest who belongs to the Legionnaires for Christ, a relatively new religious order, made the same point. The history of the Church, he said, is like the swing of a pendulum that expands on one arc only to contract on the other, only to expand again. During these periods of contraction, God inspires and sends new spokespeople who are equipped to deal with whatever is threatening the Church at that moment and, through their efforts and insights, the Church blooms and blossoms once again with new vigor and vitality. Many who left, will return with a new commitment. Many who never belonged will join as they, like the pagans during the time of the Roman Empire, become disgusted with the moral decline and depravity of the culture. Thus the Pope is right. We really are in the springtime of the Church and when it comes to fruition the Church will have taken one more step towards its ultimate goal of leading its flock from the blind faith of childhood, through the rebellious arrogance of adolescence, into the full maturity of adulthood.
It’s only a matter of time before the logical consequences that flow from the premises of secular humanism and other modern movements prove their incompatibility with our basic human needs. And when that happens, the Church will be like a beacon on the hill calling us back to the fullness of life that Christ promised us.
My point is that there is a midpoint or synthesis between Capitalism and Communism which combines the best of both systems while eliminating their defects and, it is my belief, that the Church is the agent that will provide this synthesis. However, before it can do it, we must be willing to honestly evaluate both systems to see what is true and good and what is not. Therefore, I would like to end today’s talk by reviewing and evaluating some of the major points of the Communist Manifesto and its criticism of Capitalism. Where Marx is right, we shouldn’t be afraid to admit it because it has been my experience that often one can agree with the problems that are identified by one’s opponent and yet still disagree with his solution.
So let us once again look at the major points that Marx made in the Manifesto to test their validity. And, whether we agree or disagree with the goals of Communism, I think that Marx and Engel have to be given high grades for their understanding of history and sociology. Basically, the Communist Manifesto is a history lesson in how the Feudal System, with lords, serfs, and castles, which was the major survival method after the collapse of the Roman Empire, was itself destroyed when the trade with the East following the Crusades caused the merchant class to rise in economic, and later, political power.
There are a lot of observations in the Manifesto with which we can agree. For example:
It’s true that capitalistic societies are inclined to identify all revolutionary
movements with communism when often the driving motive is something else.
It’s true that trade with the East and the discovery of American set in motion
today’s international trade
It’s true that the hand-crafted methods of the Feudal Period could not keep up with the demand of the growing world trade.
It’s true that this caused the development of factories and manufacturing in which machine labor began to replace human labor.
It’s true that the development of factories began a movement of population from rural farm areas to urban areas that continues to the present time.
It’s true that this movement led to the breakdown of the close, traditional, and often genetic, relationships that tied people together in the rural farm areas.
It’s true that machines made it possible to hire women and children to perform jobs that formerly could be performed only by men, thereby shifting the power structure in the family when wives, and sometimes children, replaced husbands and fathers as the economic head of the family.
It’s true that money and profit became the major glue that bound one person to another and that lifelong traditional roles which gave the person security and an assured position in the social order were replaced by insecure shifting roles of urban life where economic factors led to reoccurring unemployment and the need for job retraining.
It’s true that as the business class rose in economic power they fought for and succeeding in gaining control of political power in the modern democratic republics. “Dollar Diplomacy”, in which our foreign policy, was shaped by the interests of our businessmen, is a fact of American history.
It’s true that businessmen, involved in world trade, are cross-pollinating cultures and, as a result, are creating a world culture.
It’s true that once any primitive or Third World group takes in any of the artifacts created by a capitalistic industrial society they are hooked because they will either become dependent on them to resupply them or else they will have to adopt the manufacturing form of production themselves. Thus, capitalism, for better or worse, is creating a world made in “it own image and likeness” where everyone will reflect the values and goals of the Western world.
It is true that Capitalism has created a dilemma by tying production, the amount of things that you make, to distribution, the share that one receives of what is produced. As a result, it can’t stop one without stopping the other. Consequently, it suffers from reoccurring recessions and/or depression due to over-production.
It’s true that it solves this problem by either expanding its markets to other areas of the world or by destroying what it has produced so that workers can be paid to produce it again. In other words, we have to keep production going, not because we need the products but because we need to keep people working so that they will have the money to buy what we have produced.
It’s true that the bankruptcies and economic disruptions caused by these swings in the economy will cause or motivate smaller companies to either sell out or be gobbled up by larger companies until eventually the market will be controlled by giant international conglomerates.
However, it is not true that this will eventually lead to a situation in which a small group of international capitalists, who are living is sumptuous wealth, will be surrounded by millions of starving workers. If anything, Capitalism has created a “pie so big” that even a small slice of it is greater than an equal share of the Communist pie and the businesses have discovered that they can’t exist unless the consumer has enough money to buy their product. It is Capitalism, not Communism, that has created the “dictatorship of the proletariat.” They just don’t realize that they are in control.
The secular humanists attract a lot of support, especially from well-meaning, liberal Christian, because they seem to “out-Christian” Christianity. They are constantly inventing programs to help people with their problems and, because of this, their opponents sometimes refer to them as “bleeding-heart liberals.” There is no denying that many of their programs seem, at least on the surface, to be motivated by concern for the problems of other people and thus we might even concede that they are an expression of love. However, very often they lack wisdom because they often excuse people from responsibility for their own behavior. As a result, we are creating a “world without consequences” in which people make stupid decisions and still manage to escape the logical results. Therefore, they are permitted to “keep on repeating the same behavior, while expecting different results.”
Since the time of the Renaissance, the ancestors of today’s humanist have yearned to return to the pagan past of ancient Rome and Greece that preceded Christianity. Much of the art, sculpture, and poetry that came out of that period was about Greek and Roman gods and the legends that surrounded them. They dreamed of a utopian society similar to the one described in Plato’s Republic where an enlightened few, like Plato’s philosopher kings, would assume control and make decisions for the benefit of everyone else. In other words, they dreamed of a world ruled by “enlightened despots” who, in their pride, believed that they knew what was good for everyone else.
The climax of their efforts came with the French Revolution of 1789 and when this failed they simply accepted the fact that their vision for a New, non-Christian, World Order would take a little longer to accomplish than they had expected. Thus, they planned for the long term and successfully passed their vision from one generation to the next.